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Calvary Chapel Authority Structure

Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 2 months ago

Calvary Chapel Authority Structure

This page examines the organizational structure of Calvary Chapel as a movement and as local churches. For the sake of discussion, Calvary Chapel can be viewed as being organized in the following fashion:

Notice the direction of the arrows. They all flow downhill. The accountability of Calvary Chapel as a denomination is seriously flawed.


Chuck Smith - Man at the top

The man at the top of this structure is Chuck Smith. Smith is the founding pastor of the first church, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, called "Big Calvary" although it may not be the largest in weekly attendance. As the Chairman of the Board of Directors at CCCM, Smith not only controls his local church, he also controls the next block down, the CCOF as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the CCOF.


Appeal to Chuck?

Appealing to Chuck does no good. There have been many local churches where the people realize the structure above is how things are run and try to appeal to Chuck Smith for help in some local situation. Lest you think of trying this yourself, you need to know that it won't work. Smith will not help you. Power only goes in one direction. Listen sometime to Smith's phone interview with James Tidmarsh to see that if Smith intercedes into the local church that it is only to serve his own interests. It is important to realize how Chuck Smith uses his boards. Smith is the original "teflon president". Nothing sticks to him. Smith uses his boards to deflect criticism away from himself.


Having what you hate...

It is an irony that is lost on none (other than Chuck Smith himself) that Smith left the Four Square denomination in search of a more free organizational structure but ended up with a much more authoritarian and much less free structure for those below him than what he had left. The very things which Smith hated the most, such as reporting of statistics are repeated in his own structure.


But even worse is a lack of accountability in the upward direction. Smith himself is accountable to no person and there are no paths for appeal up any level.


Calvary Chapel Organizational Glue

At the level of multiple churches, Calvary Chapel claims to not be a denomination. The organizational glue that holds multiple Calvary Chapels together is the CCOF. Ordination at Calvary Chapel is handled through the Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowship (CCOF). The CCOF also has reporting of the local churches.


It is important to understand that in Calvary, the pastor, not the church, affiliates with Calvary through the CCOF. When someone describe Calvary Chapel of XYZ as "Pastor Jim's church" they are not far off the mark since that is the organizational structure of Calvary Chapel.


Role of the Pastor

This form of local church government of Calvary Chapel is based on an authoritarian model called the Moses Principle. In a way this is ironic considering the formation of Calvary Chapel during the countercultural revolution in America of the 1960s and 1970s. This is a top-down model of church government similar to an episcopacy. This system results in unaccountability to the congregation.


Pastoral Training

Some have pointed to the minimal level of training required of a Calvary Chapel pastor.


The role of the wife of the pastor is a subject that has received a lot of discussion.


Assistant Pastors

Similarly the role of the Assistant Pastors at Calvary Chapel has been questioned due to the loyalty required to the Senior Pastor. The composition of boards at Calvary Chapels is another area of concern.


Local Church Board Structure

Boards at Calvary Chapels are often nothing more than a rubber-stamp to the pastor.


At the bottom - you the attendee

You are not a member since Calvary Chapel has no membership. You have no voice other than to walk out the door if you don't like it.


Conflicts in Calvary Chapel

Accountability is nothing more than a structure to deal with conflict that resolves conflicts in a just manner regardless of the relative power of the individuals in the conflict. If a pastor has a conflict with someone at Calvary Chapel they boot the person out the door. There are no appeals to a higher power since the pastor is Moses in that congregation.


Conflicts with leadership at Calvary Chapels are nearly always resolved by the person making the charge being slandered and driven out of the church.


Conflicts Beyond the Local Church

Calvary Chapel has tried to shut down Internet resources which are critical of Calvary Chapel.


How Ought Church Leadership Be Done?

Many CC people have not been outside of a CC. If they have they have not looked closely at other church leadership examples. They think that Calvary Chapel is normal or that it's just another option among equally possible options for church leadership. How did the early church solve such problems? Read Acts 15 carefully and see how problems were solved.


The local church at Antioch had a problem. Many Gentiles were getting converted and there was confusion among the people as to whether they should be instructed to follow the law of Moses. Some people had come from Judea telling them that the new believers needed to be circumcised. There was a confusion between what Paul had been teaching about freedom in Christ and what these men were teaching. Paul and Barnabas were sent by the church in Antioch to Jerusalem to get direction from the church there on how to handle these new believers.


Paul went up and spoke to the entire church about the matter (Acts 15:4). The Apostles and elders called a meeting to discuss the matter (15:6). The entire church (the multitude) was present at this discussion (15:12). Paul and Peter's argument won the day. The decision was made by the Apostles and the elders and the people, as the text says:


Act 15:22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church...


This is the Biblical model. It was used to solve the earliest problems in the church. A church run by the Moses principle does not need concensus. But it is not based on the New Testament model for the church.


Further, the local church was not atonomous. It looked to Jerusalem to help.


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